The Reason Rally was magnificent. If you were there, I certainly don’t have to tell you that. I was thrilled to be a part of such an event, and even more ecstatic to see so many of my contemporaries and friends out there as well. I spent nearly the whole rally shaking hands, hugging, and taking pictures with people (something about the pope hat fascinated them). I’m expecting to see quite a few shots of me as the Atheist Pope hit the internet over the coming days.
Speaking of the Pope Hat, it managed to make it through the Rally. But just barely.
The general sogginess of the event really did some damage in terms of the hat’s structural integrity. This means that I will have to retire the mitre, and move on to a new ridiculous hat for the future. I’ll cook up the chimney once my next one is ready.
On to the Rally itself: there was a clear disparity between the good speakers and the lackluster speakers. Essentially, you could gauge it by looking at the line at the display table tent. The comedians did an outstanding job; most notably Tim Minchin; who is now being crucified for his vulgarity by conservatives as a result. Given, he did get away with performing his infamous “Pope Song”. However, as per the lyrics, I think the vulgarity in the context is absolutely justified:
And if you don’t like the swearing
That this motherfucker forced from me
And reckon it shows moral
Or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you, motherfucker
This is language one employs
When one is fucking cross
About fuckers fucking boys
-Tim Minchin’s “Pope Song”
As far as the negatives of the Rally, I feel that Ed Brayton really hit the nail on the head in his wrap-up:
Now, the bad: Way too many speakers. Way, way too many speakers. Most of them had a few minutes to speak at the most. And several of them did the standard protest rally speech, the kind I absolutely hate. I hate chanting. Hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. I hate call and response even more than I hate chanting. And when Elizabeth Cornwall had everyone shouting things at Congress, I couldn’t have cringed any harder if Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter made a sex tape. That kind of thing just makes my skin crawl.
And I kind of felt bad for Dan Barker, though I think his wound was largely self-inflicted. Dan is a great speaker and a great guy, but he likes to do some really cheesy anti-religion songs. Unfortunately, he did a few of them shortly after Tim Minchin performed and the contrast was as stark as it could possibly be. The effect was like an open micer following George Carlin on stage. Why he attempted to pull it off is beyond me.
I honestly couldn’t say it better myself. Barker in particular seemed to suffer incredibly in contrast with the top-bill entertainers. It was like watching an endeared, cheesy uncle with a fondness for puns attempt to hold a stand-up comedy special. He just seemed uncharacteristically uncomfortable up there.
One of the big positives of the Rally that I have heard few mention was Sean Faircloth’s stellar 5-minute snippet. I’d be willing to wager that most of the crowd was not familiar with him, yet he managed to win them over with gusto by the end of his brief presentation. He continues to be one of my favorite speakers in the movement, primarily for the raw passion with which he speaks and partially because of his impeccable hair.
Other obvious high points of the Rally were the heart-felt speeches by Adam Savage of “MythBusters” fame and Nate Phelps, the estranged son of the Westboro Baptist Church patriarch Fred Phelps.
The question that seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues is whether there will be another Reason Rally in the future, and if it will become a regular event. Personally, I feel that having an annual Rally could harm the numbers, especially if it is confined to a single location. On the other hand, this event has done wonders towards promoting dialogue between the numerous organizations, creating a true united front to the movement. That cooperation is something I don’t want to see lost, but even that could become strained given the stress and friction of co-hosting such a large event. I feel like another rally in the future would be a good thing, but not on an annual basis. Biannual perhaps would be most effective, confined to election years. That is just me speculating, though.
Here’s what Hemant had to say over at Friendly Atheist:
Contrary to what people are saying on Facebook and Twitter, while all the organizers appreciate the sentiment about having another Reason Rally soon, we’re *not* doing this again next year. Or the year after that. We’re probably not doing this again in five years. It takes a lot of time, it costs a lot of money, and it’s a major investment on the part of the sponsoring organizations. It took *years* to make this event happen. The media was interested because this was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of event. It won’t be “fresh” or “interesting” if we make it an annual thing, even if that was feasible. And I’m also not sure the enthusiasm would be there if we did it annually.
Not terribly surprised by this news at all, and I honestly think it is for the best. Hey, there are still countless amazing conferences to attend! No big loss there, they should keep us all occupied until the time arises in which another rally is held.
In non-Rally news, AAA broke 500 dollars in the “Send an Atheist to Church” fundraiser over a week of tabling, and there is a high possibility of more coming in yet. I’m going to type up a proposed schedule for church visits in the next few days and get to work on fulfilling our end of the bargain. I have to say, I am quite exited about a number of these. We are notably being sent to a Latin mass in Birmingham, and there was quite a good deal of money raised to send us to a mosque. Hopefully all of the logistics will work out, and we will be able to attend all of our specifically requested services. This whole event should provide some fascinating insight into the Religious communities of the Tuscaloosa area, which interests me quite a bit. I’ve heard countless stories from members about church services that they grew up with, and I am curious to see how this experience compares. I’m planning on blogging on each of our stops, as well as podcasting intermittently with fellow participating members. Stay tuned in for updates!